A nonfiction book by science fiction and fantasy writer, poet, and critic Jo Walton, subtitled "A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards, 1953-2000." 

The Hugo Awards recognize the best works of science fiction and fantasy -- mostly novels, short stories, and other literary forms. The first of them were handed out in 1953, and they're usually hotly debated -- did the winner deserve to win? Who else should have been nominated? Are the voters a band of blithering idiots?!

So along comes Jo Walton, at the time writing on the Tor.com website, who put together a series of articles between 2010-2013 that did a deep dive into the Hugo winners and nominees and all the books that could've been nominated, and whether the Hugos of each year did a good job of representing the state of science fiction. She wrote about every Hugo slate from 1953-2000 -- partly because she felt she couldn't judge whether more recent nominees had stood the test of time -- and partly because Walton was nominated for her first Hugo in 2001 and felt it'd be weird to write about her own books. 

The columns were collected in 2018 by Tor Books, supplemented by short essays by Walton on certain noteworthy books as well as by comments by a host of fans, critics, editors, and writers, taken from the original columns on the Tor website. 

What we get is, as the title states, informal -- and subjective and incomplete by design. Walton gives us every winner and nominee in every category, but we don't get a full breakdown and analysis of all the categories. Best Professional Editor, Professional Artist, Fanzine, Semiprozine, Fan Writer, and Fan Artist tend to pass with no comment, while the categories for Best Dramatic Presentation and Best Nonfiction Work are mostly ignored (Walton is not a fan of the Dramatic Presentation award, and generally feels that the Nonfiction nominees are too difficult to determine which nominees are most worthy). 

Walton goes into serious detail when discussing the Best Novel winners. She doesn't give complete reviews of each novel -- in fact, she hasn't even read all the nominees and acknowledges that she has no desire to do so -- but she does give a brief plot overview for all of the books, along with her opinion on how good it was, whether it's still remembered today, whether it's still in print, and whether it's available in her local library

She also takes abbreviated looks at the winners and nominees of other important sci-fi awards, including the Nebulas, the Locus Awards, the James Tiptree Jr. Awards, and the Philip K. Dick Awards, to see what other books were being recognized -- and she looks for prominent novels that somehow got overlooked by all the awards. Would any of them have been worthy nominees? 

The categories for novellas, novelettes, and short stories get almost as much discussion as the novel category, as does the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (renamed the Astounding Award for Best New Writer in 2019). 

Each chapter also includes selected comments from the Tor website -- and considering these comments come from writers, editors, and critics like Gardner Dozois, Rich Horton, David G. Hartwell, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, James Davis Nicoll, and more, they're certainly more insightful than most website comments. Many of the comments focus on the best short fiction offered every year, whether or not it was nominated for a Hugo. The comments are also where you often learn about some of the trivia of every year's nominees and ceremonies -- why there were no fiction categories at all in 1957, why certain authors requested their nominations be withdrawn, why some groundbreaking novels may have been ignored when it came to nominations, why the worst Hugo winner ever actually managed to win...

I enjoyed this one a lot. There are a lot of places you can find lists of the Hugo winners and nominees, but this one has the best and most enjoyable analysis of the winners. It has some similarities to "What Makes This Book So Great," Walton's previous book of essays on science fiction novels, just with less laser-focus on individual books. 

It's wonderful to have a book that analyzes all the winners and nominees and presents the author's informed opinion on whether they all deserved to be nominated and whether they all remained worthy of the nominations today. There was a period where Robert Heinlein, Orson Scott Card, and Isaac Asimov got nominated for almost anything they wrote, and nowadays, the nominated works often don't hold up, compared to some of the works that were neglected by the voters. At the same time, some of the nominated works have been almost entirely forgotten -- sometimes because they were never that good, sometimes because even great novels can be left behind when popular tastes change. 

But what's really useful about this book is the discussions about what other books and short stories could have been nominated for the Hugo, because you get to learn about books you've never heard of before and which sound cool enough to track down and read. Lots of books never got as popular as the long-lasting classics, but they still sound interesting. The real heartbreakers are categories like Best Novella -- Walton and most of the commenters think this category was consistently fantastic almost every year, but you have to really go digging to find novellas and short stories that may have only appeared in old magazines...

All in all, this is a book worth reading -- both for the high quality of Walton's writing and analysis and for the recommendations for other books to put on your Must-Read list. 

I was discussing this very topic with my friend Numnutts Johanssen and my future vice president Chester Manfriend. I have given him this last name now to reflect our friendliness to all the men in America to foster togetherness between the people who matter.

Over the years, a lot of people have had the name "Hugo." This has long been for me a source of great puzzlement and ponderances - which are not related to the Ponderosa from The Big Valley with Lorne Greene, Lee Majors, and The Fonz. This was a show taken off the air by the infestation of liberalism (plague) in the 1960s when people yelled at President Richard M. Nixon despite him being a wonderful man with concern for all men in America. However, it features no one that I know of named "Hugo" so we move on and pretend this paragraph never happened. Understand?

One of the most famous Hugos was Hugo Weaving who was the first cross between the elves and the humans and long before the fine-as-fuck ass sporting Spock. Damn, that man had a terrific ass. Sometimes I see it in my dreams. His name is also not Hugo so we move on.

After that, I want to informally mention Hugo Chavez who I don't care for one bit.

Hugo Grotius was Dutch. Hugo Black was once a senator from Alabama and had a GREAT fucking head of hair, I swear to God. Hugo Wieslander was an athlete from Sweden who had these dynamite diamond-shaped calves and almond eyes (according to what I can discern from these Sepia photograhs I keep under my pillow when I sleep). Hugo von Hofmannsthal was a fine, strapping Aryan lad of note. Victor Hugo was a word scribbler with two first names.

These are some of the famous Hugos that I think about a lot. You probably have your favorites as well when dipping those long, slender fingers into that juicy nest of egg whites you call a morning beverage. Fantastic. But what does it all mean. This is the question you are asking yourself and people milling about behind you at the creepy corner computer at that cheesy hipster coffee shop you bring your rotten, filthy, worthless shit ass into every day. I see you access everything2.com brand website because you are not enough of a person dedicated to REAL MAN WORK and can't afford the fucking Internet. Get out of my face you asshole.

So, when discussing Hugos and their history, where do we go from here? There are several options open to us at this time. Come with me. Come with Friend Behr, my dear close friend. Come.

Did you come yet? Good. It is hard to see through the Internet at what you are actually doing and I do not like to assume as I am a deep thinker. 

Hugo as a name has origins in Germany, land of the master race and future rulers of this planet once the other nations collapse into their own foolishness (coming soon). It has origins elsewhere, but they are less important as we move on with this lecture that I am qualified to give as I was once a fully tenured professor of ethics before being let go because of budget cuts and being too controversial. Plus, they shut down the for profit university I was working for anyway. It was planned that way because we keep each incarnation of the university in a different place, under a different name, and change after too many graduates realize the degree is useless.

This is too bad, which is why I am giving this lecture on ethics here instead of there. Can you hear me, you metric system loving piece of dog shit that turned white on the sidewalk? Can you really? Because I am talking to you. If you say, "Are YOU talking to ME?" like that again, I will cut your fingers off and put them in your wife's casserole that she and your kids will eat while thinking you are "just running late because you are working at the office." You don't stay late to work at the office. You stay late to use the Internet at work to access porn and beat off when everyone goes home. I see you, motherfucker. I really do. Pay attention to me. I am doing magic with my left hand that you cannot currently see because my camera isn't turned on for legal reasons pertaining to my flight from the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation - more info on this topic is available at those underlined words which are what is called "link").

This is a good rap session we are having here, hon. Would you care for another biscuit? Love watching the butter drip down your face. Are you hot for me, hon? Are you warming up to me at least? I want us to be together so bad in a passionate embrace. I want to show you my softer side (and what happens when I get harder side going). I will let you wear satin robes and have eunuchs service you with their greedy, ball-less hands. You will have all you desire and we can watch the people parading into my "worker re-education camps" (alleged) while making love on the porch to the sound of those whips and clubs hitting fresh, untamed man meat. It will be a beautiful life for you and me.

The name Hugo means that you are smart, that you have a mind, that you have intellect. Therefore, with the exception of Chavez, these are all wise men worthy of your worship.

Honor the name of all those named by the sacred name of "Hugo" and buy their products for whatever price they charge. If they have gum on their shoes, I want to see YOU on your knees, gnawing that gum off with your teeth that were paid for with goddamned tax payer money because of your status as a lazy piece of shit with bad taste in movies. How many fucking times can you watch Avatar? It really isn't that great of a movie and it goes on for too long. Put something else in your VCR for a change. And if you can't afford your own dentistry, don't come to the government dole for handouts any longer. That shit is going to get CLAMPED down on whether I win this election or my former hero Trump does (he's gotten WAY too fucking mainstream and it pisses me off). No more. Get a third job. Get a fourth. Come over here and blow me for twenty bucks. NO MORE.

If your name is Hugo, you will be exempt from processing unless you ran a scam and changed it to Hugo so you would be kept out of the camps. That is as fake as non-German bologna and ale. Don't waste my time.

That is my brief review of the book An Informal History of the Hugos. Thank you and please drive home safely after class if you are using stimulants to stay up twenty-four hours a day and have been doing so for more than a year on a daily basis. You may need to see one of my non-scientific doctors who can look in on you without bringing the bullshit of "science" and "mathematics" and "liberalism" (the three offenses punishable by death under my administration). Once again, if you birth name is Hugo, you will be exempted from all that. We do need to begin processing non-essential people into food once we win our war against animals and nature. I will send MANY hunters all over the world to track down and kill ALL animals including plants (which are animals in disguise - science lied to you AGAIN - big shocker there, eh?). We will need food for the vital 1% once the war against the animals and the animals-disguised-as-plants is won (we will be winners). Start seasoning yourself unless you come here and be my sweet, sassy First Lady. Sounds as good as an oriental bathrobe hanging from an airport toilet stall, don't it hon?

Thank you for listening to my vital lecture on the book, An Informal History of the Hugos. I hope you buy this fine book and read it soon. Worth the money, I assure you (unless it isn't on sale - check local listings - that link doesn't bring you to your local listings, btw).

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